How do I fix my Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the most common foot injury. About 2 million Americans suffer from this each year and about 10% of the population has plantar fasciitis at one point in their lifetime. However, when people have foot pain, they often don’t know who to turn to or where to start. This blog post is intended to give those suffering from plantar fasciitis a starting point on the journey to walking without pain.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. This connective tissue joins the heel and the toes together. It gives support to the foot and helps propel you forward while walking, as it gives the foot a rigid platform to push from.
When this band of connective tissue is inflamed, it commonly presents as pain on the back of the heel. This pain typically occurs with the first few steps you take in the morning or after sitting for a bit. Sometimes the symptoms improve with walking, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes the pain is much worse the next day after a lot of walking.
This type of foot pain typically occurs after an increase in time spent on one’s feet. The activity can vary, and while it is more common in runners, you do not have to be athletic to develop plantar fasciitis. It frequently occurs in nonathletic individuals as well. The common factor with plantar fasciitis is the load that is placed on the foot is too great for the foot to withstand. When this occurs, foot pain more commonly known as plantar fasciitis, develops.
Do you really have Plantar Fasciitis?
It isn’t uncommon for us to get a phone call or text message along these lines: I have plantar fasciitis and it really hurts to walk. What should I do? The first thing we typically do is back up the conversation. How do you know you have plantar fasciitis? Why are you sure? What makes you think that?
The reason we ask these questions is because it is not uncommon for other feet, ankle, and even back and nerve issues to present as pain on the back of the heel. We have seen multiple people walk in the door convinced they have plantar fasciitis only to realize through a full evaluation that they are actually struggling with an irritated nerve instead. We cannot condense all the information we go through in our heads when evaluating foot pain to give you clarity on where your foot pain is truly coming from. What we can say is that if you are trying the exercises we suggest and not seeing relief after two weeks, it’s time to book an evaluation to figure out what the true source of your pain is.
Our Go-To Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis
If you skipped directly to this section, go back and read the two paragraphs above this. We would hate for you to spend a lot of time doing these exercises, not get results, get frustrated, give up, see a podiatrist, and end up with a surgery you do not need. If you did not skip directly to this section, read on!
There are lots of different exercises we can choose for plantar fasciitis and different individuals respond to different exercises. The exercises we have chosen to include below are ones that a large majority of people find helpful. We hope you will find them helpful in solving your foot pain as well!
Tight calf muscles are one of the reasons why plantar fasciitis develops. This is because a tight calf muscle puts additional strain on the tissue on the bottom of the foot by pulling on the foot. Stretching out the calf muscles can relieve some of that pressure.
Eccentric Single Leg Heel Raise
This is a more advanced version of the stretch listed above and places a greater pull on the calf. However, it also puts a greater pull on the bottom of the foot. Because of this, we wait until individuals have lower amounts of pain and are later in the recovery process to implement it. If your pain is mild or less at all times, it would be a better place to start than the gastrocnemius stretch.
A muscle called the tibialis posterior helps prevent your arch collapsing while you are walking. The collapse of your arch puts greater pressure on the bottom of the foot. In most individuals with foot pain, this muscle is not strong enough to prevent the arch from collapsing. Strengthening this muscle puts less pressure on your foot and can help decrease discomfort.
We also focus on the muscles inside the foot because repeated contraction and relaxation of these muscles can help decrease inflammation. When inflammation is decreased, pain decreases as well. This is a tricky exercise to get, so we suggest listening to the audio in the video for some pointers.
If the exercise above was too challenging or if you are not sure if you are doing it right or not, try these instead. It is easier to see if you are doing them correctly or not. These are also the exercises that we typically start people with when they struggle to coordinate the muscles inside their foot.
Wrapping it All Up
We have covered what plantar fasciitis is, what is it often confused as, and some common exercises we use to treat it. Before we close, we would also like to add that is a diagnosis that is frustrating. It takes time for it to get better for a couple reasons.
The first reason recovery can be slow is the lack of blood flow to the foot compared to other structures in the body. The more blood flow an area has, the faster it heals. The second reason is due to the difficulty of keeping your foot pain low enough to allow healing to occur. There are a lot of things we do on our feet that we cannot avoid doing. Because of this, sometimes healing takes longer. In the meantime, if you aren’t sure how much discomfort is appropriate for your foot pain, check out our blog post that discusses that here.